(True story from sometime in 2013. I wrote this shortly after it happened, but am sharing it for the first time today).
11-year-old runaway. Locked up in a room for a year and a half. Cancer survivor. Mother of eight. Custody battles, some won, some lost. Raising five children, one a pregnant 15-year-old. Lived in a safe house due to domestic violence. Sexually harassed. Stalked by male neighbors. Treated unfairly by landlords. Going without food so her children can eat more.
One of the street girls from a huge city in Brasil? No. This story is not from a Brasilian, nor even from someone in an urban area. Ready for a surprise? If you live in Lewis County, this woman was in your backyard until a few weeks ago. I met her in a crowded apartment on a street much like yours. Ironically, when she answered her phone, she sounded like an antisocial, distant woman. Although praying we could talk at least for a little while, and making a couple quick phone calls to request prayer from others, I expected to merely drop the Bible off for her son, who had attended Good News Club, and be sent on my way. Met at the door by the boy, I asked if it would be okay for me to meet his mom quick. He took me up the stairs and around the corner to apartment 6 where he introduced me to his mom, pregnant teenage sister, and the two brothers in the room.
After less than two minutes of small talk, she asked me to sit down. Settled comfortably on a rickety wicker chair she had cleared off for me, I listened, asked questions, and listened some more.
After awhile I talked, praying for words that would express the Gospel in a way that they would understand, hoping that passion for Jesus and His greatness shone from my eyes and sang through in my voice. Even with no language or culture barriers, there are worldview barriers which can often obscure the message. In the midst of some obvious misconceptions of Jesus, the Bible, and the church, Truth was shared. After almost an hour and a half of conversation, she accepted my offer to pray for their family, closing her eyes respectfully as I stumbled for words to ask God to watch over them and draw them closer to Him. Before leaving, I asked, “Can I give you a hug?” She nodded, and hugged me as a woman who has not received a hug in a long time and wanted one very badly.
If only our paths had crossed sooner, instead of a few days before this family planned to move out of state. Would I have been able to be a consistent part of their lives, to show this mom what true friendship is, to help her see Jesus? I wish the clock could go back, or that I had taken initiative to meet her sooner.
Who else is in our backyard, waiting for someone to meet their child, reach out to them as a parent, knock on their door, and visit? Who might we pass by without noticing? Let’s ask God to show us, so we don’t miss an opportunity. He sees the lonely, the brokenhearted, the oppressed. He knows where they live. And if we are willing and obedient, He will send us there.